Aug. 18, 2004
ATHENS, Greece -
Andrew MacKay (Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands/Cayman Prep & H.S.), who will enroll at the University of Notre Dame as a freshman later this month and join its men's swimming and diving team, broke another of his own Cayman Islands records in finishing fourth in his heat of the 200-meter individual medley Wednesday morning in the Olympic Aquatic Centre of the Athens Olympic Sports Complex at the Games of the XXVIII Olympiad. It took MacKay just 0.59 seconds to get off the starting block after the commencement of the race, which not only was the fastest in the entire 50-swimmer field, but also stands as the quickest reaction time of these Games by any non-backstroker (who start in the water), man or woman. His time of 2:07.65 was one-half second quicker than his previous best in the event.
MacKay, who will become the first Olympian in Notre Dame men's swimming history when he arrives on campus, moved up six spots from his seeding to finish 41st in the 50-swimmer field. Raouf Benabid of Algeria won the second of seven heats with a time of 2:06.34. MacKay, who had the slowest qualifying of the seven competitors in the heat, was sixth after the butterfly portion, but he moved up one position on the backstroke leg and gained another spot in the final 50 meters (freestyle). His seed time of 2:08.15, the previous Cayman Islands record set at the 2003 Caribbean Championships in Jamaica, was the 47th-fastest in the field. MacKay broke his own national record in the 400 IM on Saturday with a time of 4:32.38 in finishing 33rd.
Among the swimmers MacKay beat was Oguz Orel Oral of Turkey. Oral, who swam collegiately for the University of Indianapolis, still holds Notre Dame's Rolfs Aquatic Center record in the 200-yard individual medley (1:50.14), set at the 2002 Notre Dame Invitational.
A notoriously quick starter, MacKay was 0.02 seconds faster than anyone else in getting off the block in the 200 IM (Pin Wu Nien of Chinese Taipei was next at 0.61 seconds). He was tied for second-fastest in the 36-competitor field of the 400 IM on Saturday with a reaction time of 0.66. In the 2003 World Championships, his time of 0.63 seconds was tops in the 78-swimmer field of the 200 IM.
Using the NCAA conversion factor, MacKay's mark is the equivalent of going 1:50.41 on a 25-yard course (the Olympics use a 50-meter course), a time bettered just twice (both by rising sophomore Tim Kegelman at the 2004 BIG EAST Championships) in the history of Irish men's swimming.
The top 16 swimmers advanced to Wednesday evening's semifinals, with the cutoff for that group coming at 2:02.11. The eight fastest swimmers in the semis will advance to Thursday evening's final. Leading the way in prelims was Laszlo Cseh of Hungary, who posted a time of 1:59.50. Three other swimmers were below 2:01.00: world recordholder Michael Phelps of the United States (2:00.01), Auburn junior-to-be George Bovell of Trinidad and Tobago (2:00.65), and Jiro Miki of Japan (2:00.93). Phelps broke his own world record for the third time in August of 2003 with a mark of 1:55.94 that still stands. Over the past year, Phelps is the only swimmer in the world to post a time below 1:59.00. The second-quickest competitor in the world over the past 12 months has been fellow American Ryan Lochte, who will be a junior at the University of Florida this fall. He qualified for the semifinals with the 10th-fastest time, 2:01.41.
Phelps is continuing his quest to tie the record of eight medals in a single Olympics. Thus far, he has won three golds (200 butterfly, 400 IM, 800 free relay) and a pair of bronze medals (200 free, 400 free relay). Cseh took bronze in the 400 IM on Saturday.
Coverage of the men's 200-meter individual medley can be seen on NBC, with the prelims featured in afternoon action and the semis and final to be shown during the evening (coverage begins both days at 8 p.m. in South Bend).
The official website of Irish athletics, www.und.com, features coverage of all 10 Olympians with Notre Dame ties competing in this year's Games. Included in that coverage are diary entries and photos documenting their time in Athens.
MacKay, a 5-9, 150-pound graduate of Cayman Prep and High School, holds the Cayman Islands national records in long-course meters in all backstroke, breaststroke, and individual medley events, as well as the 100-meter butterfly. He is coached by former U.S. great Dave Kelsheimer. MacKay failed to qualify for the Olympics in his top event (100 backstroke), but then garnered an invitation in the 200 IM and the 400 IM (at the '03 Pan Am Games).
His extensive international experience includes competing at the 2002 World Short Course Championships in Moscow, reaching the semifinals at the '02 Commonwealth Games in Manchester, and becoming the first Caymanian to advance to the finals in the Pan American Games, in '03. Mackay earned 31 medals (14 gold, 11 silver, 6 bronze) at the CARIFTA (Caribbean Free Trade Agreement) Swimming Championships, setting six records on the way. He medaled in nine events (4 gold, 5 silver) in the Island Games, setting three records, of which the 100 back mark still stands. Mackay also won the Cayman Islands Swimming Coach's Award in '02.
While MacKay is the first Irish men's swimmer to compete in the Olympics, two Notre Dame women's swimmers have arrived on campus as Olympians. Jilen Siroky, who graduated in May after an injury-plagued collegiate career, competed at the age of 15 in the 200-meter breaststroke for the United States in the Atlanta games in 1996. Christel Bouvron (Singapore, Singapore/Raffles Girls' Secondary School), who will be a junior at Notre Dame this fall, competed in the 400 free and 200 butterfly in the 2000 Sydney Olympics for Singapore, and once again took part in the 200 fly in these games.
Since the Antwerp games in 1920, Notre Dame has been represented (by current, former, or future athletes) in 15 of the 20 Summer Olympics, including each of the last 10. A total of 10 Olympians in the Athens Games have ties to the Irish, by far the most of any Games. The previous high was three in both the 1992 and '96 Olympics. Irish athletes have won 10 medals, including a trio of golds, completed by incoming freshman fencer Mariel Zagunis, who won the sabre competition on Tuesday.
For more information on the Olympics, see www.athens2004.com, while complete television listings of coverage by the NBC family of networks can be found at www.NBCOlympics.com.